For the parents of college-aged children, late summer is usually a time of fun and anticipation. Families are planning their last-minute vacations and taking their teens shopping for school supplies. Students are checking their course schedules and dorm room assignments. This school year, however, there is a feeling of uncertainty surrounding the back-to-school season. Parents are understandably concerned about the health crisis and how they can continue to protect their children, even when they’re miles away on a college campus.

Under Georgia law, a person who is 18-years or older is considered an adult. At this point, their parents cannot legally access their medical or financial matters. To help make sure that parents can continue protecting their children while they’re away at college, it is a good idea for the teenager to create two essential estate planning documents: a financial power of attorney and an advance directive for health care.

Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney, which is also referred to as a personal representative or an agent, is someone who is legally authorized to act on another person’s behalf. A financial power of attorney can help with money, real estate, or legal matters. If a college student names their mother or father as their financial power of attorney, their parent can help with things like accessing their bank and bank accounts, transferring money, signing legal documents, assisting with tax records, or even checking the student’s mailbox. In other words, if the student gets sick or becomes incapacitated, the parent with the financial power of attorney can make sure that any bills are paid, and any legal issues are handled appropriately.

If a student becomes incapacitated and they have not named a financial power of attorney, the court will likely appoint a guardian or a conservator to help with any financial or legal issues. That court-appointed individual may not necessarily be the student’s parent.

Advance Directive for Health Care

An advance directive for health care is a legal document in which a person lists their health care and treatment preferences. It puts their doctors on notice about medical decisions if they are otherwise able to communicate those wishes due to an injury or illness. Within the advance directive, a person can designate their medical power of attorney, also known as a health care proxy or health care agent. If a college student designates their mother or father as their medical power of attorney, that parent can speak to their child’s doctor, look at any health care records, and make decisions about their child’s medical treatment.

If a student gets hurt or seriously ill without having an advance directive in place, there could be delays in making urgent health care decisions. If the parent is not named medical power of attorney, he or she might have to petition the court in order to act on their child’s behalf.

Have additional questions? Please contact the estate planning team at Brian M. Douglas & Associates

In times of uncertainty, it is important for parents to know that they can protect their family – even when those family members are far away. For students who are headed to a college campus, it is a good idea to cover their bases with both a financial power of attorney and advance directive for health care. If you have additional questions about these estate planning documents, or if you would like to schedule an estate planning consultation, please reach out to us at (770) 933-9009. Our estate planning team will be happy to speak with you.